By George Mack, Content Marketing Manager, Check Point

In a landscape of evolving cyber threats, phishing attacks continue to cause devastating consequences for organizations around the world. Although it’s well known that 91% of cyber attacks stem from phishing, why do companies still become victims?

Hackers are becoming more intelligent and are crafting new ways to deliver their phishing payloads. And there’s one variation in particular that’s more dangerous than the rest. Enter a more sinister and targeted version of phishing that flies under the radar – the whaling attack.

What is a whaling attack?

Whaling attacks, also known as “whale phishing,” take their name from the concept of “fishing for whales.” In this example, a “whale” refers to a high-profile target within a company, such as a CEO, CFO or other top-level executive. In contrast with a generic phishing attack, which casts a wide net and is less targeted, whaling attacks are highly focused and personalized. As a result, they often yield a higher success rate than other types of attacks.

Common objectives of whaling attacks include tricking the victim into giving up personal details or sending large sums of money.

Characteristics of a whaling attack

In a whaling attack, there are several characteristics which distinguish it from a general phishing attack. These include:

1. Targeted victims: Hackers carefully research their targets. They scour the web for information on where the targets live, what their social media profiles look like, and other sensitive information that only a close confidant may know.

2. Personalization: Threat actors use sensitive information that they’ve gathered to craft convincing, tailored emails, text messages, or phone calls. In some cases, threat actors will use deepfakes – software that enables them to fake the voice or even video of the target – to convince a decision-maker to hand over sensitive information or wire millions of dollars.

3. Spoofing: Attackers employ advanced techniques to spoof email addresses and domains, making it appear as thought the email is coming from a trusted source within the company.

4. Deceptive content: Whaling emails often contain psychological triggers, such as fake urgent requests for wire transfers, requests for access to confidential data, or other requests for high-impact actions. Threat actors use social engineering to trick their targets into falling for these tactics.

Prevent whaling attacks

If you want to defend against whaling attack, you’ll need a combination of technical and people-focused strategies. These include:

1. Employee training: Ensure that employees of all levels at the company undergo cyber security awareness training to ensure that they know about phishing attacks, whaling attacks and other threats.

2. Multi-factor Authentication (MFA): Implement MFA to add an extra layer of security in order to protect against email phishing threats.

3. Email authentication: Implement email authentication protocols like DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) to prevent email spoofing and improve the security of your email communication.

4. Email filtering: Utilize advanced email filtering solutions to identify and quarantine any potential phishing or whaling threat. This feature can analyze email content, sender reputation, and other indicators of a whaling attack.

5. Verification procedures: Establish strict verification processes for high-value transactions or requests. For example, employees should confirm requests such as wire transfers with the purported through an alternative communication channel.

Whaling attacks are a sophisticated and highly targeted form of phishing that poses a significant threat to organizations, especially since they target high-profile employees. By understanding what whaling attacks look like and implementing preventive measures, companies can reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams.

What email security solution should you use?

To prevent whaling attacks, implement an email security solution that can identify and block these threats before they are delivered to employees’ inboxes.

Check Point’s Harmony Email & Collaboration security solution is an invaluable tool for businesses of all sizes. It provides comprehensive protection against the latest email threats, such as phishing, malware, and ransomware. It also includes advanced analytics to detect and respond to suspicious activity.

In addition, Harmony helps businesses comply with data privacy regulations, such as GDPR and HIPAA. With its advanced security features, Harmony Email & Collaboration can also help businesses protect their data and ensure compliance with regulations.

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